On the Future of our Educational Institutions - Homer and Classical Philology

Page 26 of 31

"Have you ever, at a musical rehearsal, looked at the strange, shrivelled-up, good-natured species of men who usually form the German orchestra? What changes and fluctuations we see in that capricious goddess 'form'! What noses and ears, what clumsy, danse macabre movements! Just imagine for a moment that you were deaf, and had never dreamed of the existence of sound or music, and that you were looking upon the orchestra as a company of actors, and trying to enjoy their performance as a drama and nothing more. Undisturbed by the idealising effect of the sound, you could never see enough of the stern, medieval, wood-cutting movement of this comical spectacle, this harmonious parody on the homo sapiens.

"Now, on the other hand, assume that your musical sense has returned, and that your ears are opened. Look at the honest conductor at the head of the orchestra performing his duties in a dull, spiritless fashion: you no longer think of the comical aspect of the whole scene, you listen—but it seems to you that the spirit of tediousness spreads out from the honest conductor over all his companions. Now you see only torpidity and flabbiness, you hear only the trivial, the rhythmically inaccurate, and the melodiously trite. You see the [Pg 142]orchestra only as an indifferent, ill-humoured, and even wearisome crowd of players.

"But set a genius—a real genius—in the midst of this crowd; and you instantly perceive something almost incredible. It is as if this genius, in his lightning transmigration, had entered into these mechanical, lifeless bodies, and as if only one demoniacal eye gleamed forth out of them all. Now look and listen—you can never listen enough! When you again observe the orchestra, now loftily storming, now fervently wailing, when you notice the quick tightening of every muscle and the rhythmical necessity of every gesture, then you too will feel what a pre-established harmony there is between leader and followers, and how in the hierarchy of spirits everything impels us towards the establishment of a like organisation. You can divine from my simile what I would understand by a true educational institution, and why I am very far from recognising one in the present type of university."

[From a few MS. notes written down by Nietzsche in the spring and autumn of 1872, and still preserved in the Nietzsche Archives at Weimar, it is evident that he at one time intended to add a sixth and seventh lecture to the five just given. These notes, although included in the latest edition of Nietzsche's works, are utterly lacking in interest and continuity, being merely headings and sub-headings of sections in the proposed lectures. They do not, indeed, occupy more than two printed pages, and were deemed too fragmentary for translation in this edition.]

[9] The reader may be reminded that a German university student is subject to very few restrictions, and that much greater liberty is allowed him than is permitted to English students. Nietzsche did not approve of this extraordinary freedom, which, in his opinion, led to intellectual lawlessness.—TR.

[10] Hegel's.—TR.

[11] A German students' association, of liberal principles, founded for patriotic purposes at Jena in 1813.

[12] Weber set one or two of Krner's "Lyre and Sword" songs to music. The reader will remember that these lectures were delivered when Nietzsche was only in his twenty-eighth year. Like Goethe, he afterwards freed himself from all patriotic trammels and prejudices, and aimed at a general European culture. Luther, Schiller, Kant, Krner, and Weber did not continue to be the objects of his veneration for long, indeed, they were afterwards violently attacked by him, and the superficial student who speaks of inconsistency may be reminded of Nietzsche's phrase in stanza 12 of the epilogue to Beyond Good and Evil: "Nur wer sich wandelt, bleibt mit mir verwandt"; i.e. only the changing ones have anything in common with me.—TR.

[Pg 145]


(Inaugural Address delivered at Ble University, 28th of May 1869.)

At the present day no clear and consistent opinion seems to be held regarding Classical Philology. We are conscious of this in the circles of the learned just as much as among the followers of that science itself. The cause of this lies in its many-sided character, in the lack of an abstract unity, and in the inorganic aggregation of heterogeneous scientific activities which are connected with one another only by the name "Philology." It must be freely admitted that philology is to some extent borrowed from several other sciences, and is mixed together like a magic potion from the most outlandish liquors, ores, and bones. It may even be added that it likewise conceals within itself an artistic element, one which, on sthetic and ethical grounds, may be called imperatival—an element that acts in opposition to its purely scientific behaviour. Philology is composed of history just as much as of natural science or sthetics: history, in so far as it endeavours to comprehend the manifestations of the individualities of peoples in ever new images, [Pg 146] and the prevailing law in the disappearance of phenomena; natural science, in so far as it strives to fathom the deepest instinct of man, that of speech; sthetics, finally, because from various antiquities at our disposal it endeavours to pick out the so-called "classical" antiquity, with the view and pretension of excavating the ideal world buried under it, and to hold up to the present the mirror of the classical and everlasting standards. That these wholly different scientific and sthetico-ethical impulses have been associated under a common name, a kind of sham monarchy, is shown especially by the fact that philology at every period from its origin onwards was at the same time pedagogical. From the standpoint of the pedagogue, a choice was offered of those elements which were of the greatest educational value; and thus that science, or at least that scientific aim, which we call philology, gradually developed out of the practical calling originated by the exigencies of that science itself.

These philological aims were pursued sometimes with greater ardour and sometimes with less, in accordance with the degree of culture and the development of the taste of a particular period; but, on the other hand, the followers of this science are in the habit of regarding the aims which correspond to their several abilities as the aims of philology; whence it comes about that the estimation of philology in public opinion depends upon the weight of the personalities of the philologists!

At the present time—that is to say, in a period which has seen men distinguished in almost every [Pg 147]department of philology—a general uncertainty of judgment has increased more and more, and likewise a general relaxation of interest and participation in philological problems. Such an undecided and imperfect state of public opinion is damaging to a science in that its hidden and open enemies can work with much better prospects of success. And philology has a great many such enemies. Where do we not meet with them, these mockers, always ready to aim a blow at the philological "moles," the animals that practise dust-eating ex professo, and that grub up and eat for the eleventh time what they have already eaten ten times before. For opponents of this sort, however, philology is merely a useless, harmless, and inoffensive pastime, an object of laughter and not of hate. But, on the other hand, there is a boundless and infuriated hatred of philology wherever an ideal, as such, is feared, where the modern man falls down to worship himself, and where Hellenism is looked upon as a superseded and hence very insignificant point of view. Against these enemies, we philologists must always count upon the assistance of artists and men of artistic minds; for they alone can judge how the sword of barbarism sweeps over the head of every one who loses sight of the unutterable simplicity and noble dignity of the Hellene; and how no progress in commerce or technical industries, however brilliant, no school regulations, no political education of the masses, however widespread and complete, can protect us from the curse of ridiculous and barbaric offences against good taste, or from annihilation by the Gorgon head of the classicist.

Free Learning Resources